Commit to combat cancer

World Cancer Day was observed on February 4th.

The theme this year was Today’s Children, Tomorrow’s World and the UICC launched a campaign to spread information and knowledge about actions such as lifestyle behaviors and technology, such as the new HPV vaccine, to underscore the importance of prevention in the fight against cancer.

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

According to the World Health Organization 13 per cent of all deaths recorded globally in 2005 can be attributed to cancer. The majority of these occurred in low and middle income countries. While it is expected that the number of deaths from cancer will continue to grow, especially in the developing world, as many as 43 per cent of all cancers can be prevented through healthier lifestyles established in a person’s childhood years.

Many cancers result from cancer-causing agents that we inhale, eat and drink or as a result of things that we encounter in the environment. Parents and other adults who play a significant role in the life of a child need to act as role models and show by example the importance of not using tobacco or alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight and eating a sensible diet, receiving vaccinations at appropriates ages against cancer-causing infections and avoiding unprotected exposure to the sun.

Tobacco is the single largest preventable cause of cancer in the world – there is no safe tobacco product. In some parts of the world it is commonplace for children to use tobacco products before the age of 10.

Here in Cayman, the public needs to call on our Government leaders to truly make tobacco legislation a national priority so as to protect our children.

We urge you to call your MLAs and let them know you care about tobacco legislation.

Healthier choices are the way to overcome cancer caused as a result of poor diet and inactivity. Some research indicated that diet is second only to tobacco as a preventable cause of cancer.

It is important that children be educated about a balanced diet which includes fruit and vegetables and that they are, perhaps more importantly, provided with such a diet. The Cancer Atlas says that because young people who develop healthy eating habits early in life are more likely to continue those healthy habits as adults, efforts to assure a healthy diet for children and young people should be part of a comprehensive control strategy.

Linked to adopting a healthy diet is the importance of leading a lifestyle that promotes being physically active. This is important not just for cancer prevention but for overall physical and mental well-being.

The Cancer Society applauds organizations such as the Kiwanis Club of Grand Cayman for its initiatives to provide children with breakfast.

The Society also applauds Generali and the other partner organizations for the Be Active Eat Smart programme and encourage corporations and individuals to adopt a school with this programme – these are your future employees and a well employee is a more productive and less costly employee.

The Cancer Society has recognized this and is an active partner with Generali in the Be Active programme.

A little known fact is that one-fifth of all cancers are caused by chronic infection such as the hepatitis B virus, which can lead to liver cancer and the human papillomavirus, which can lead to cervical cancer. There are now vaccines available against both these viruses which are transmitted through sexual contact. It is therefore important that parents and educators teach children about disease risks and sexual behavior.

Sunlight exposure is a risk factor for everyone regardless of skin colour but fair-skinned individuals are at increased risk.

In Cayman, many of us enjoy outdoor activities but we must do so responsibly by using sunscreen and trying to stay indoors or at least in a shaded area, between the hours of 10am and 4pm.

Researchers recommend that adults and children follow the shadow rule – if your shadow is shorter than your body or not visible, you should be in the shade or indoors. The application of sunscreen should become a routine daily activity just like brushing your teeth or combing your hair.

Many cases of cancer can potentially be avoided but it needs everyone, our government leaders, our educators and families to make this happen. Health needs to be a priority for everyone.

By giving our youth a solid foundation upon which to build their future health and wellness we are giving them a phenomenal gift. In the process we may also be giving ourselves and our nation the gift of improved health.

We urge everyone to become more proactive at promoting and living a healthy lifestyle.

Christine Sanders, Cayman Islands Cancer Society

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